Most of us would think that the Broncos have been quite successful with our early round (1-3) picks over the past four drafts, but have we really? Yes we have Von Miller, but we also have quite a few early picks who have not become starters for us. How does our track record compare to the rest of the league? I've got this tabulated below similarly to how I did in the analysis of the late round picks over the same time period. AV is approximate value. SUM AV is the total of the AV for all players drafted rnds 1-3 for a given team. AVE is the average AV (SUM AV/# of picks). MAX is the maximum AV (coming from the best player listed in the final column). PB App is total number of Pro-Bowl selections by players drafted by said team. STY is "starter years" - if you have two players who both were starters for 3 years while all of your other picks did not become starters, then you have a STY of 6. "Fails" are picks that did not become starters (at least not yet). Fail rate = ("fails")/(# of picks).
Comparative Value and Success of Rounds 1-3 2011-2014
|TEAM||# of picks||SUM AV||AVE||Max||PB App||STY||"Fails"||Fail Rate||Best Player rnd 1-3|
There have been 389 players picked in the first three rounds over the past four drafts. All but fifteen of them were still in the league in 2014. While that is most definitely a "failed" pick, I'm sticking with my definition as stated above.
We see that Broncos have been above average in terms of getting value from our early round picks. Of course about one third of that value came from Von Miller alone, who was the second overall pick in 2011. While you can fail with the second overall pick (e.g. Robert Gallery, Charles Rogers, Ryan Leaf and Rick Mirer) most second overall picks go on to have very long and productive NFL careers (e.g. Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson and Donovan McNabb). Von Miller has all three of the Broncos' pro-bowl apperances from our recent early draft picks. Eight of our thirteen picks fit my criteria for fails - the five starter "successes" being Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Orlando Franklin, Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams. Starters are players who start at least eight games even if they only play ~50% of the potential non-special teams snaps (Knighton was a starter for us despite only playing about 50% of the defensive snaps). For simplicity I did not try to parse players in the above table by % of offensive or defensive snaps as that would have involved a lot more data entry.
I will note that while KC has drafted poorly in rounds 4-7 recently, they have gotten some really good value out of their early picks in the last 4 drafts. It doesn't hurt than that they have generally been drafting in the first half of each round or earlier. Our other two division rivals have not had much success recently with their picks in the first 3 rounds.
One problem with ranking teams based upon drafting starters vs non-starters (fail rate) is that is puts good teams at a disadvantage. Generally bad teams have to start their early round picks regardless of how good or bad those players might be. Good teams generally have the luxury of either waiting on a player to develop (Brock Osweiler?!?!) or using a "failed" early pick in a backup/specialist role (Ronnie Hillman). While that provides some comfort, we are still near the bottom of the league in fail rate - 62% is 29th worst over this period. Keep in mind that Roby, Latimer and Schofield could all end up as starters this year which would greatly improve our "success" rate.
Broncos "Failed" Early Draft Picks 2011-2014
EDIT - Nate Irving started 8 regular season games for us in 2014 so he should not have been in my fails category. This has now been corrected.
The four teams whose fail rate was worse than Denver's are Arizona, Detroit, Cincinnatti and San Francisco. Buffalo leads the league with a fail rate of only 15% - only two of their thirteen early round picks have not become starters and Cyrus Kouandjio could still become a starter. On the other end of the spectrum we have the 49ers, who have had surprisingly little success with their early picks - only 4 of their 14 early picks over the last four drafts have become starters (Eric Reid, Aldon Smith, Colin Kapernick and Chris Culliver).
I was surprised to see that DAL has gotten the most value out of their top picks recently. Demarco Murray was the biggest contributor, but Tyron Smith was almost as good (total AV of 42). Two other offensive line picks have turned into gold for them, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. Dallas was also tied for the league lead with 6 Pro-bowl appearances (tied with Cincy) from their picks. On the other end of the spectrum from Dallas we have Jacksonville, who despite drafting high all four years has been surprisingly bad at finding value in their picks. Jonathan Cyprien is their best pick but his career AV at this point is 11. Jacksonville is one of seven teams to have not picked a Pro-Bowl player in the early rounds over the last 4 seasons. Four of the teams in that group are expected as they have been bad for the entire time period (TEN, JAX, OAK and CLE), but the other three are suprising since they are teams that have had a great deal of success over the past 4 seasons (DET, SDG and NWE). In the latter three cases, the lack of Pro-Bowlers is a combination of questionable early round picks and/or talented rosters with few holes.
Only 15 of the 389 players selected in the first three rounds over the past four drafts have made AllPro and only 3 of those players have been named AllPro more than once: Patrick Peterson, Luke Keuchly and J.J. Watt. Von Miller has only been named AllPro once.
An area where we have done well, compared to other teams is starter years (STY) - meaning that the guys we have drafted who become starters have STAYED starters (Miller, Franklin, Moore are all multiyear starters). Sylvester Williams will most likely be a starter again this year. The Rams have been the best team recently at finding "lasting" starters while the Packers have been the worst (Cobb only has one year where he was listed as a starter (2014). Prior to last season he had only started 12 games in 3 years. San Fransisco has not been much better than Green Bay in terms of finding lasting starters - of their only Kapernick has been a starter for more than one season.
A player that is drafted and starts immediately as a rookie and then continues to be a starter is what I am going to call a "home run" - HR. Over the last 4 drafts we only have 3 (Miller, Franklin and Moore). Below is a table showing how our home run rate compares to other franchises over this time period
2011-2014 NFL Draft "Home Runs" in rounds 1-3
|TEAM||# of picks||Home Runs||HR%|
EDIT- I originally left Derek Wolfe off the list. He is a "home run" pick even though he missed 5 games in 2013 due to injury he still started 11.
As you can see, we have not been great at finding immediate and continued starters in the early round recently. Part of this is due to having a fairly strong roster every year after the 2011 draft with few holes that we didn't fill in free agency. The teams with the biggest HR% are four teams that have been fairly lacking in talent over the past four seasons - MIN, OAK, BUF and TAM. The teams on the other end of the spectrum are generally considered to have talented rosters - PIT, ARI, SFO and NWE (and have had good success on the field recently). For what it's worth, early picks that make AllPro would be "grand slams". So while Orlando Franklin was a homerun pick, Von Miller was/is a grand slam pick.